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  • Writer's pictureGordon Elliot

Chris Walker - RIP

We were very sorry to hear of the death of Chris Walker who passed away on Monday (8 January). He was perhaps best known in Burford as head of collections at the Tolsey Museum and was also a prominent Freemason.

Readers of The Bridge will be familiar with the many articles he sent us about items in the museum and about local history of which he had an encyclopaedic knowledge. We had a running joke with him that he regularly emailed his articles to us around 11.59pm on the last date for entries in the magazine. On the rare occasions that he sent them a few hours early we would express total astonishment at his achievement. A typical example (from October 2016) is reproduced below.

Chris leaves his widow, sons Drew and Nathan, his daughter, Alice, and many friends in this area.


The Tolsey Museum

The Fire of London gave an

opportunity for local man.


One of the traditions in Burford is that Christopher Kempster and his masons brought London building styles with them returning from the rebuilt city.

There are few records to substantiate claims for individual houses being the work of Kempster, but there are stylistic similarities to his own house at Upton where an inscription over a window states CHRISTOPHER KEMPSTER BVILT THIS IN 1698.

In 1884 the house was sold and incoming tenants rescued Kempster’s Daybook when a roomful of papers was ordered to be destroyed, thus providing a unique and valuable insight into Christopher’s involvement in the supply of stone to London.

An early entry in the vellum-covered book, which starts in 1667, reads:

received of mr Knight for the first parsell  of stone delivered at London £15 – 0 – 0

Mr Knight was a stone carver, and much of Kempster’s stone was used for fine interior work.

Another entry reveals the route taken for transport of the stone, through wharfs at Radcot.

September 21 : 1672 - then was Loaded into Humphrey Duffins boat, 75 ffoot of stone at ratcat.

We purchased the Daybook for the Tolsey Museum in 2003, and in transcribing it I discovered for the first time that wharfs at Culham, near Abingdon were also used. This was prior to the introduction of Pound locks, circa 1700, which then gave sufficient draught in the Upper Thames for year-round navigation.

The entries concerning stone are interspersed amongst those dealing with Kempster’s main occupation as a farmer. When the call came from London for men and materials, Kempster seized the opportunity to exploit his situation as a quarry proprietor, quickly rising to become one of Wren’s favourite masons.

The Daybook and the transcript can be seen at the Museum.

Chris Walker


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